Statement of Policy Principles

Humanist Society of Victoria Inc. is affiliated with the International Humanist and Ethical Union, London, UK, and the Council of Australian Humanist Societies

Adopted by 57th Annual General Meeting, 22 November 2018

1. General Principles
2. Ethics
3. Liberty
4. Tolerance
5. Education
6. Bio-ethics
7. Environment

1. General Principles

1.1 Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry. Humanists do not subscribe to theistic and supernatural views of reality.

1.2 Humanism affirms that our present life is the only life of which we have knowledge, and that our efforts should be directed towards its improvement.

1.3 Humanists aim at promoting the happiness and well-being of people. Humanists defend the rights of all people to freedom, dignity and the opportunity to develop their potential, through equitable access to human-generated knowledge and resources. Humanists support community engagement and every citizen’s participation in democratic decision-making.

1.4 Humanists acknowledge and celebrate the great human achievements in the realms of science, technology, mathematics, humanities, philosophy, music and the arts.

1.5 Humanism advocates an evidence-based approach to solving problems and understanding the nature of the universe.

2. Ethics

2.1 Humanist ethics are based on the concept of a civil society that balances individual autonomy with community obligations. Humanist ethics are not fixed and are reassessed as knowledge and community values change.

2.2 Personal morality should be shaped by concern for social well-being, and the avoidance of harm to others. The well-spring of Humanist ethical and moral behaviour is directed towards the building of a truly civil society. Fear of punishment or hope of reward do not guide Humanist ethics.

2.3 Humanists believe we are individually and collectively responsible for contributing to actions that alleviate the problems of humankind, especially intolerance, poverty, disease, wars, overpopulation and environmental destruction.

2.4 The identification of indigenous people with the land and water should be respected, and their pre-existing rights should be accommodated.

2.5 People unable to care adequately for themselves, whether because of illness, psychological or physical disability, or because of economic deprivation or disadvantage, should be supported by the community. Basic health care should be available to all.

2.6 Children should be protected from all forms of exploitation and abuse. Neglected, abused or homeless children are a social responsibility and should be cared for through community programs.

3. Liberty

3.1 Humanists value highly the freedom of the individual. However, personal autonomy carries with it a reciprocal obligation to society and to get involved in community decision-making.

3.2 Humanists oppose discrimination against any person on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, race or nationality.

3.3 The dignity and privacy of all persons should be respected. Irreversible body alteration such as circumcision and female genital modification, except for medical reasons, should only be performed after informed adult consent of the person concerned.

3.4 Humanists strongly support freedom of expression and association, recognizing this liberty must be balanced against potential harm and abuse.

3.5 Sexual activities between consenting adults should not be subject to legal restrictions.

3.6 Victimless ‘crimes’ committed by consenting adults, such as prostitution, drug use and gambling, should not be penalised; neither should they be commercially encouraged.

4. Tolerance

4.1 Humanists maintain that people have the right to hold and express their personal beliefs.

4.2 Humanists do not seek to impose their beliefs on others and oppose such practices by other groups in the community.

4.3 Humanists oppose laws of blasphemy, as they are out of place in a modern, secular democracy, in which no particular religious or non-religious world-view has precedence.

5. Education

5.1 Each human is endowed with certain qualities such as common sense, creativity, ethics, intuition, memory and the ability to reason. Through a life-long process of education, these are developed and augmented by access to the vast store of human knowledge and experience.

5.2 Formal, secular education of a high quality should be available to all. Basic skills such as numeracy, literacy and critical thinking should be core studies.

5.3 Social education should cover knowledge of rights and obligations within the full range of human interactions. Sex education and relationship and parenting skills should be parts of the school curriculum.

5.4 When funded by the State, religious education should be available only in the form of comparative studies – an outline of the history and basic tenets of various life beliefs – to promote mutual understanding and social cohesion.

6. Bio-ethics

6.1 People ought to have the means of controlling their reproduction to ensure that every child is wanted. Thus, safe means of contraception should be freely available; every woman should have the right to abortion carried out safely and least invasively and financed the same way as other health costs.

6.2 Infertile couples should have access to IVF procedures and altruistic surrogacy, after full consultation about the risks and difficulties involved.

6.3 Every person has the right to an easy and dignified death. Through refusal of treatment and the signing of an ‘advanced directive’ the pain and distress of the terminally ill should be minimised. The autonomy of terminally ill persons wishing to end their own life should be respected, and access to the means for this purpose should be available.

7. Environment

7.1 Humanism affirms that we must live in harmony with other species and protect our environment from damage.

7.2 The quality of life of present and future generations depends on the careful and sustainable management of our environment.

7.3 The complex interdependence of the human species with all other species on our finite planet and the limits of our knowledge make it prudent that we preserve regions of the globe from commercial exploitation and scientific experimentation.

7.4 Global warming and over-population are among the greatest threats to our planet, and measures of control are urgently needed.

7.5 The development of non-exhaustible energy sources should be a high priority. Problems of pollution and toxic waste disposal need to be solved before irreversible damage occurs.

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